Justin Portillo‘s late spot kick took the Battery past the visiting City Islanders on Saturday night. It was a match that had little in terms of chances, but ebbed and flowed at times, with both teams probably wanting a bit more from the night, but the Battery claimed all three points, lifting them out of a bit of a slump.
The Battery took the slump as an opportunity to make a few changes and rest some players, and it was Chris Tsonis who got the start in place of Romario Williams, while Shawn Ferguson was back beside Taylor Mueller in the center of defense, and Alex Tambakis was in between the sticks, giving Odisnel Cooper the night off.
It was Tsonis that got things going early on for the Battery, and he had the ball in the net on nine minutes, but he needed to time his run better, as he was called offside. The finish was one of convenience for the ‘keeper more than anything, and the scores would stay 0-0.
A run up the touchline for the Battery on 12 minutes would eventually find its way to Maikel Chang, who, with Dante Marini and Zach Prince taking up the wings for the home side, found himself more central at times tonight, beside Attaulah Guerra in midfield or behind the striker, Tsonis. But Chang’s effort after receiving the pass from the right lacked power, and was saved easily.
The Islanders found themselves with a chance only a few minutes later, when a cross Shawn McLaws from the left was fired by Paul Williams toward Alex Tambakis in goal, but it, like Chang’s effort before, lacked power.
The visitors had a lot of possession in the opening half, getting into good positions, but also not really troubling the defense that much either. Shawn Ferguson showed his class on a few occasions, impressing on his return from injury, while beside him, Taylor Mueller marshalled well as the two kept things organized and compact.
The first real chance in earnest did fall to the Islanders, though, on a free kick in the 35th that was whipped straight at Tambakis, in a position that many thought would probably lead to a cross, and the bend made things a bit awkward for the goalie on the near post, but he did well to punch the ball away as he was diving sort of into his own net to keep the ball out, and the ball was eventually cleared.
But it seemed as if the Battery did eventually turn the screw a little bit and find another level, their first chance coming from some fancy skills in and around the box with a few volleyed passes, and the ball fell to Attaulah Guerra, whose attempted chip just had a little too much power, and went over the bar. The move certainly did deserve a goal, but it wasn’t happening for the home side at that moment.
With 41 minutes gone, it was Chang and Portillo linking up at the edge of the area, as Chang did well to fashion some space, but only had the lay off to Portillo on, as the ball didn’t sit right for him. Chang found his midfield partner, and Portillo curled one that was destined for the upper 90, but his attempt was foiled by a certain contender for the USL’s Save of the Week by Nick Noble in goal for the visitors.
That’s the way the first half ended, with the Islanders perhaps the better team for the opening half hour, but the Battery did come into it a little more as the half came to a close, and probably went in the better of the two sides.
After another sluggish start to the second half, Tsonis was replaced by Romario Williams, the Battery’s top scorer, who started the night on the bench, probably in the hopes that the home side would be able to give him a rest. Tsonis didn’t have the worst game, but the service was lacking, and as the match wore on, it became apparent the Battery needed someone who could create his own chances.
Just past the hour mark, Obrien Woodbine would go into the book after giving away a foul on the left wing, the free kick didn’t lead to anything, however, and the chance was gone.
It was then Woodbine a bit later with a nice ball played through for Williams, who latched on, but the angle for a shot was always against him. The striker went with power toward the far post with the shot, aiming for the roof of the net, but the ball sailed high.
Another sub, Emmanuel Adjetey, would have his part to play in the final say of things, though. Coming on for Guerra, he did well to quickly put his pace to good use, and with eight minutes to go, created what would be a turning point.
He was played through after a layoff by Romario Williams, running into the box, toward the byline, and probably had an angle to shoot from, with the onrushing goalkeeper closing in. But Adjetey would just squeeze the ball past Noble, who kept coming and collided with the man. The referee pointed to the spot as a penalty was given, giving the Battery the chance to take the lead late on.
The penalty was coolly dispatched by Justin Portillo, who gave the ‘keeper the eyes, waiting for him to commit before slotting past him into the bottom corner.
Adjetey was at it again with two minutes to go, getting free and leading a counter at pace and playing Ricky Garbanzo through, who sent the ball back across, but the ball wasn’t controlled properly, and fell back to Garbanzo in an offside position.
The visitors would make it a bit nervy near the end, which would come from a ball that the Battery will say they should have cleared first time, after a layoff at the edge of the area. The initial shot lacked power, but the ball wasn’t cleared as it rolled inside the box, the Battery scrambled around for a moment before a defender put his foot through it, and the referee blew for full time.
So, the three points snapped a two game home losing streak, which was in stark contrast to the 29 game winning streak the Battery had previously on their home patch.The next game is on Sunday, June 26, as the Battery travel to Canada to take on Toronto FC II
TOP IMAGE: JUSTIN PORTILLO’S CALM CELEBRATION MATCHES HIS MATCH-WINNING PENALTY. VIN DUFFY PHOTO